01/27/2004 1:00AM

Juddmonte outclasses rivals

Email

The Juddmonte Farms of Saudi prince Khalid Abdullah, which enjoyed phenomenal success with homebred Grade 1 winners in 2003, overwhelmed the competition to win Eclipse Awards as North America's leading breeder and owner.

Juddmonte has now won a total of six Eclipse Awards as breeder and owner.

Juddmonte's breeding award was its fourth, an unprecedented feat in the breeding category's 29-year history; Juddmonte also won for breeding in 1995, 2001, and 2002. The owners award was Juddmonte's second, following its win in 1992.

These latest honors cap a remarkable season for Juddmonte Farms, which also won top honors as Britain's leading owner and breeder and France's leading owner last year.

The stable's best North American runners this year included three Eclipse finalists: Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, who ended 3-year-old champion Funny Cide's Triple Crown bid; Sightseek, who was up for older female honors; and one of the season's best turf females, Heat Haze.

All three fell short in the balloting.

At the end of 2003, Juddmonte ranked, by earnings, third on the owners list and fifth on the breeders list. But unlike its rivals, Juddmonte rose to top honors with far fewer runners, an indication of its horses' powerful class. As an owner, Juddmonte had just 122 starts (leading earner Mike Gill, by contrast, had 2,235). Thirty-three of those won, giving Juddmonte's racing stable $6,265,030 in purses. Juddmonte bred just 57 starters this season, compared with leading earner Frank Stronach's 380; Juddmonte runners won 51 races and earned $6,975,379. Thirty-seven of the horses Juddmonte bred were stakes winners, including 10 Grade 1 or Group 1 winners.

Khalid Abdullah is not often seen at North American racetracks, where Dr. John Chandler, the general manager of Juddmonte's North American operation, represents him, as he did at the Eclipse Awards ceremony. But the effects of Abdullah's breeding program are felt far and wide, with an annual supply of Grade 1 and Group 1 winners competing successfully every year on North America and European racecourses.

"The prince loves this award, because it doesn't recognize one horse or individual but the whole operation," Chandler said as he collected the breeding award from Jockey Club executive director Dan Fick.

In accepting the owner award, Chandler pointed out that all of Juddmonte's winners were homebreds, making clear the importance his employer places on the art of breeding racehorses.

Abdullah, 66, was born in Taif, Saudi Arabia, and first became interested in Thoroughbreds in the 1960's during a visit to England. As head of a business conglomerate called Manwared, which has interests in everything from catering to electronics, and as a 1-percent stakeholder in the Chase Manhattan Bank, Abdullah has ample resources on which to build his Thoroughbred empire.

And it is an empire. The vast homebreeding operation has divisions at Juddmonte Stud, Banstead Manor Stud, and Eagle Lane Farm in England; Ferrans Stud and New Abbey Stud in Ireland; and Juddmonte Farms in Lexington. The property covers a total of about 7,000 acres, and between the farms and his racing string, Abdullah has about 600 horses. The runners in North America are trained by Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel, who also earned an Eclipse Award as 2003's leading trainer.

Juddmonte has yet to win a Kentucky Derby; Empire Maker's runner-up finish was the second for Juddmonte. But there are few other Grade 1 trophies missing from the Juddmonte trophy case. The farm's rich bloodlines have produced some of the best runners in recent memory, including Epsom Derby winners Quest for Fame and Commander in Chief; Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe victors Rainbow Quest and Dancing Brave; Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker; and such champions as Wandesta and Ryafan, who each won Eclipse Awards as North America's best female turf competitors.